Paradise Kiss 2: Meet the Cast

The second chapter of Paradise Kiss gives us a proper introduction to George, Yukari’s love interest. Yukari had left her student passbook at the studio, and George takes Yukari to his high school with the promise of returning it. Yukari is more than a little freaked out when he picks her up, especially after George’s cryptic promise to take her to “Paradise”.

In this chapter we learn more about our cast, and I was a little surprised to find that I actually liked Yukari this time around. When I first read this years ago, I thought she was just a downer, who spent most of her time complaining and being stand-offish. Now I understand her character better. She’s a young woman who’s uncertain what she wants to do with her life, but knows that she wants something more than what she has now. Everyone can relate to that.

George, on the other hand…I never liked George. When I was younger, he struck me as too arrogant to be truly likable, and too forward with Yukari for me to be comfortable with. At the moment I can’t cast judgement on the romance aspect of their relationship, as it doesn’t start until the end of the book, but I can still say that his arrogance remains intact, and I still don’t like him for it.

Then there are the others in “Paradise Kiss”, the fashion studio that George and his friends run. This chapter focuses on Miwako and Arashi, with the pattern designer Isabella out of the spotlight. As much as I hate the way Miwako talks (culturally relevant, yes, but still annoying), I can’t help but like her. She’s bright and sunny and struggles with her own insecurities as an artist. For example, Miwako’s older sister is also a fashion designer, and Miwako wanted to follow her sister’s footsteps. However, Miwako also says that she’s not talented enough to be a designer. Everything she designs comes out looking too much like something her sister would make, and she doesn’t have an artistic style of her own.

That one stung a little bit. When I was a kid, I wanted to do everything my sister did. I grew out of that, but I still admire my older sister and look up to her in a lot of ways. But I also understand Miwako’s self-doubt, especially as I’m trying to make a career for myself as a writer. You’re worried about finding an original idea, or everything sounds the same, or comes to close to a book you’re reading. It can be a struggle to find your own voice. Miwako has kind of given up on doing just that, but is still dedicated to helping George and making clothes.

Then there’s Arashi. My question is: is he supposed to be British? Like, a British punk? He frequently says “blimey” and his dialogue is written to evoke a vaguely English accent. But he’s Japanese, right? I don’t recall any backstory where Arashi went to England for a study abroad, or anything like that…

That said, Arashi’s speaking patterns may have something to do with dialect, regional language differences. These are details that may be a bit confusing when translating a manga from Japanese too English. For example, in one translated manga I read, a Kansai dialect was written to sound like a country accent, or slang. Is this just Tokyopop’s way of trying to do that?

As for the character  himself…Are you British or not?!when I picked the manga up for the first time, Arashi was the character I really wanted to like. I loved his punk look, especially the safety pin lip ring.

But he’s rude and abrasive, though at the time I allowed his perceived hotness to make up for that. Now that the hotness factor has faded for me, he’s just a jerk. Miwako, why are you dating him? You could do so much better.

Snow Drop Chap. 1: Meet the (Awful) Cast

I’ve decided that it was only fair to go back to manga for a bit, just because I have an absolutely absurd amount of it. I’m certain that I need to get rid of almost all of it. Even if I don’t intend to keep it all, it’s worth one last read-through. A final goodbye, if you will. I won’t subject you to any more Rave Master for the time being, so we’ll take a sharp turn to Snow Drop, by Choi Kyuang-ah. This is a series I started reading when I was fourteen, and religiously bought every book until the series ended, probably when I was sixteen. And for the purists out there, Snow Drop is technically manwha, as it’s a Korean comic. And it couldn’t be any more different than Rave Master.

Snow Drop is a dark, dramatic teen romance about a couple that no one thinks should be together. I’d read a few manga like this in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one as misguided as Snow Drop.

I almost immediately regretted my decision to re-read this book as soon as I opened it. There are so many problems with the series, and you’d think that would be pretty easy material to make fun of. It has an astounding number of things in it that don’t make any sense, like the belief that who you date in high school is who you’ll end up marrying and having kids with. There’s also several things that are pretty offensive but passed off as “true love”…like the female lead dating the guy who tried to rape her earlier in the series.

Holy hell, how did I manage to stomach any of this?

Unfortunately for the blog (or maybe fortunately), none of this happens in the first volume. This is our introduction to our main characters: So-Na, Ha-Da, and Hae-Gi. And I don’t like any of them. I know I should, but I don’t.

So-Na is our female lead,  a rich seventeen-year-old girl whose passion is her flower nursery, named Snow Drop. She’s almost always accompanied by her obnoxious friend Ha-Da, another rich teenager and self-proclaimed Casanova. The manga kicks off with Ha-Da complaining that he and So-Na have been enrolled in high school, as neither of them have been in school for several years. So-Na’s father basically blackmailed her into returning to school by smashing the windows of the greenhouse, and refusing to stop until she agreed to go back. It’s pretty telling for a character that doesn’t even appear in this volume.

My questions already begin to flare up when the two are introduced to their class for the first time. If Ha-Da and So-Na are part of such wealthy and influential families, why aren’t they sent to an expensive private school? One small change would have helped us avoid a lot of needless stupidity in the series.

I also want to point out that I hate the “new kid stands in front of class and introduces her/himself” cliche. This is mainly because never once, in my life, have I ever seen a teacher call a student to the front of the class to introduce them. Especially not in high school. Has anyone else actually seen this happen? Right now, I’m pretty convinced that this exists only in fiction.

This being a romance manga, So-Na’s seat in class ends up being right next to Hae-Gi’s, the most popular boy in school. I would like to make a couple complaints about this.

This is what the cover promises:

This is what we get:

Okay, he’s cute, but that is not the same person. And that beautiful blue-haired man was the reason I became interested in the series in the first place. Though thinking about it now, I actually didn’t fangirl over any of the characters in this series. Maybe I was over squeeing over fictional characters by that point, or maybe it was because they were all in relationships and therefore untouchable. Really, though, I think it’s because all the characters are dicks.

Looking through the series now, I searched for a character that I really liked, without reservation. I found one: So-Na’s body guard, and I don’t think he even has a name.

Even if the cast is full of jerks, though, there must have been something about it that I liked enough to buy twelve volumes of this crap, so let’s read on.

The other thing that bugs me about Hae-Gi’s introduction is that he’s called the most popular boy in school. Maybe this is a translation error, because Hae-Gi has zero friends. By definition, you have to have friends to be popular. He’s good looking, and a model, so I would accept that he’s the coolest kid in school, but definitely not the most popular. One of the nameless students (read: someone who’s not beautiful) even says that he’s standoffish and uptight about his name.

Ha-Da hates Hae-Gi immediately, for no adequately explored reason, and asks So-Na to figure out what Hae-Gi’s sore spot is. As luck would have it, So-Na is actually able to do this. Hae-Gi is short for Hae-Ba-Ra-Gi, or “sunflower”. His brothers, likewise, have flowery names. Those names (along with So-Na’s, short for So-Na-Moo, or “pine tree”) came from a book So-Na’s mother wrote, which is also entitled Snow Drop.

If you’re asking where So-Na’s mother is, by the way, she’s dead. Like all romantic heroine’s mothers.

So-Na, it turns out, also doesn’t like Hae-Gi because he’s not interested in floral language, after she tries to sell him some flowers.

While making his big, obnoxious introduction, Ha-Da invites all the kids in his new class for a party at a nightclub, Romeo, which he happens to own. And proceeds to insult the students that might not be able to go.

So-Na comes up with a game to ensure that everyone goes to the club, and I want to say right now that she’s surprisingly manipulative. You’d think that a girl who spent the last five years with just one friend would be a little more…obtuse when it comes to that sort of thing.

The game is this: you have to find your seatmate’s most precious item and take it from them for the day. The students will exchange everything back at Romeo, but if you don’t show up, then you don’t get your item back. Of course, So-Na ends up picking Hae-Gi’s most precious item, which turns out to be a marble with a feather in it. So-Na, though, doesn’t play by the rules of her own game, until Ha-Da rats her out.

You know, I sort of like Ha-Da better for doing that. I can handle annoying side-kicks; it’s the manipulative main character I’m having a hard time getting past.

Thanks to So-Na’s game, the entire class winds up at Romeo, and So-Na refuses to switch back the marble for her key until the designated swap time at 8 pm, even though Hae-Gi wants to get his marble back as soon as he can. Which is weird, because she really did not want Hae-Gi to get her key in the first place. You’d think she’d be in a hurry to get it back and not linger around Hae-Gi, especially because she doesn’t like him all that much.

As she’s playing with the marble she drops it and ends up losing it in the one place she can’t get it back. I think I’m supposed to worry about So-Na not getting her key back, but I don’t. I don’t like So-Na, and she could have avoided this stupidity had she just exchanged items when Hae-Gi wanted. Maybe if she was more likable I might actually care what happens to her.

God, this is stupid. Why did I choose to read this series again?